Posts Tagged ‘Upper Peninsula’

Restoration Forestry

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Restoration Forestry

By: Brian Liesch

The Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s roles and desires for land management are multi-faceted.  As you may already know, the UPLC already permanently protects land through our Conservation Preserve and Conservation Easement programs.  The UPLC also runs a “Forests For the Future” Conservation Reserve Program, in which 25 properties are enrolled, totaling 1,612 acres.

Conservation reserves are properties we own and sustainably manage by Restoration Forestry principles.  These provide an ongoing source of funding and allow us to demonstrate ecologically sound forestry principles.  Often times these are lands that were clear cut in the past and were either mismanaged or left alone prior to UPLC’s acquisition.  UPLC saw the need to manage these properties to promote a more natural, biodiverse and healthy forest while being able to sustainably log and model these forestry practices for educational purposes.

In particular, our Forests are guided by Restoration Forestry principles and are managed with these goals in mind:

  • Maintain, restore, and enhance the biological diversity, water quality, and ecological integrity of the managed parcels and the broader landscape context through long-term, sustainable, forest management practices.
  • Meet the requirements of Michigan’s Commercial Forest Program and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, as well as the UPLC’s organizational objectives in all aspects of land management.
  • Reinvest revenue generated from sustainable production of forest products into both new and ongoing UPLC conservation priorities.
  • Foster the sharing of lessons learned and future forest management innovation by establishing the property as a demonstration of ecologically-based land management.
  • Create and maintain positive, viable collaborations with other landowners to achieve individual and common objectives across the landscape.
  • Contribute to the local economy through forest jobs, forest products, and compatible outdoor recreation opportunities.

By following the above principles, we are able to develop resilient working forests that provide ecological benefits, recreational and educational opportunities, while providing income to the UPLC and supporting the local economy.

An example of our Restoration Forestry in action is at our 320 acre Debelak Forest Reserve in Alger County donated in 2006 by the Debelak family.  At the time of UPLC’s Acquisition of the parcel, the forest was predominantly maple.  While fantastic for logging and beautiful in the fall, if a disease were to come through that affected maple trees, this property and surrounding land would be severely impacted.  The UPLC saw an opportunity to restore the biodiversity of the forest through Femelschlag or Expanding Gap forestry practices.  The Debelak property has been visited by other foresters across the region as a model in expanding gap forestry, while economically benefiting the UPLC and region and providing recreational opportunities for others to enjoy.

Former Executive Director Dr. Chris Burnett giving a tour of the Debelak Reserve and Expanding Gap Forestry to members of Federal, State, Non-Profit and Private organizations in August 2019.

Finding something new in a familiar place.

Monday, October 21st, 2019

It’s funny when you think you know a place and then realize how wrong you are. I thought I knew the U.P. because I grew up here, went to school here and explored it from east to west with my family. But I couldn’t have been further away from the truth.

While working as the UPLC’s Stewardship Intern I was able to explore this special place we all love so much. As the seasonal monitor I traveled to a majority of the UPLC’s Conservation Easements, Reserves and Preserves. These properties are spread out throughout the U.P., one of the furthest being 2 hours and 40 minutes west of Marquette. While monitoring, I traversed the properties looking for possible violations and just enjoyed being in the middle of absolutely nowhere. While I did stumble across some trash piles and forest fire remains, I also went to some of the most beautiful places in the U.P. I have ever been to. 

I thought I knew my backyard well, but little did I know:

Lake Saint Kathryn and Surrounding Area

Gasely Lake in the Ottawa National Forest.

An incredibly diverse wilderness that is visited seldom by noisy tourists.

Wild rose with beetle.

American toad.

While visiting this site in the east Ottawa National Forest I found a quiet place that was teaming with wildlife. It was as if creatures and plants didn’t expect me coming. Peacefully undisturbed in their wilderness sanctuary, I was able to get up close and personal with some unfamiliar nature. Here, I discovered a Stemonitis spp. of slime mold (bottom left photo). Slime molds are common everywhere in the world and are not fungi but amoeba. These single celled organisms do not have a brain but are very efficient at finding food sources. The slime molds in this picture may be Stemonitis fusca, and appear to have little legs. 

For more information about Slime Molds, check out this PBS article: ‘Slime Molds: No Brains, No Feet, No Problem’

Ford Eagle Preserve

 Where familiar and unfamiliar people preserve land for the future of Bald Eagles.

Northern bay of Squaw Lake.

Hardwood-conifer swamp.


Cedar stand on the edge of Squaw Lake.

Located in the southwest corner of Marquette County, the Ford Eagle Preserve is situated around the northern edge of Squaw Lake. As a preserve, the Ford Eagle is a place the public can go to explore something new in the home county of Marquette County. Thanks to the Ford Motor Company and a local resident, this great habitat for Bald Eagles was preserved.

In 1978 the Ford motor Company’s Mining Properties Department advertised several pieces of surplus land to be auctioned off in the UP. A local resident, Loren Ameen, saw the notice and became interested in the parcel before discovering an active bald eagle nest on the property. Mr. Ameen contacted The Nature Conservancy and Ford, which then set aside this land as an eagle preserve. The Nature Conservancy acquired the property in 1995 and transferred the preserve to the U.P. Land Conservancy in 2002 to become the Ford Eagle Preserve. Eagles have nested on the north shore of the lake since the 1940s.

Trails for the Ford Eagle Preserve are planned to be made by 2021. If you are interested in helping, please contact us! 

Witch Lake Area

Where you discover you don’t need to go to the Amazon rainforest to experience a jungle.

Marsh area in Harris Lake area.

Rich conifer swamp.

Flowering vine.
Young aspen stand.

So you think you are prepared for the worst conditions? You say “I’m a Yooper, nothing can phase me!” You think you can handle the bugs, you’ve seen the worst of them and you think you can handle the humidity, you live in a swamp! Then one day you go to a jungle you had no idea existed in your backyard. Although this was the most trying monitoring visits of the summer it was surprisingly rewarding. 

Bushwhacking through barbed plants while the mosquitos are happily snacking on my only exposed body part because I am trying to take a picture of that unfamiliar plant can get tiring after a while. But after the day was finished with my boots completely soaked through (along with my raincoat and pants), I realized how incredible it is that such a wild place exists so close to my home. 

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Even though we all have our favorite hikes and places to be close to nature, there is so much to be discovered in the places we think we know. Try exploring a little and you will be surprised. 

Will you take the first step into adventure?

“The Yooper Hearth”

Friday, September 6th, 2019

The Upper Peninsula is a land in and of its own.  The people, the culture, the very grasp on reality that we have in the UP is seemingly different from that of Wisconsinites, Trolls, or anywhere else in the US for that matter.  We seem to continue some of our fellow Midwesterner’s traditions like marshmallows in “salads” and casseroles, but we’re a different breed of Midwesterner up here. We’re loyal, we’re strong, and we’re grateful, and those characteristics seem to be drawn from the land around us. 

There is a separation between us and them, and I believe wholeheartedly that it is the geography of this homeland that gives us our distinction.  We are separated from them in the south by a great expanse of trees and ongoing forests, to the north by our dear Mother Superior, and even to the east by a nearly 5-mile-long bridge and a $4 toll.  We are our own island nation of kind, warmhearted people.

I grew up in Iowa and Wisconsin, surrounded by sprawling fields and the wafting smell of manure.  When I was 16, I was transplanted with my family to Negaunee. I found myself instantly feeling suffocated by the extent of trees and the isolation this area has to offer.  All I wanted to do was look out and be able to see big sky and rolling hills – Lake Superior and Sugarloaf truly became lifesavers. Though the scenery was beautiful, I continued to feel ostracized by the land rather than welcomed by it.  Like the people here, the natural things all around me were a tight-knit group; generation after generation of tree towering high over what I now call Home.  

After attending Negaunee for High School and NMU for my undergrad, I had to leave the UP and travel to Kent State University in Ohio for my graduate career.  I found myself in Ohio surrounded by fields, buildings, and people…and yet felt lost. All I craved and yearned for was a grouping of trees that I could be protected in.  I wanted to be in a place of nature where there were no other people for miles. I wanted Home. The very thing that made me uncomfortable when I first moved to Negaunee, was what I had come to love more than ever.

I am now heading back to Northeast Ohio for my 4th year there, and I still find myself dreading the trip.  I dread the thinning of trees as I dive south into the Lower Peninsula.  I dread the congestion of people and traffic as I cross the bridge. And I dread being alone in a land where people pronounce sauna wrong and don’t know the joys of fresh-picked blueberries.  I find myself not only missing the people and the landscape but missing the way the land makes me feel.  Though not a lifelong Yooper, I found that I grew with the land around me. It made me who I am today… It made me loyal.  It made me strong. It made me grateful.

The people here have an attachment to the land that I’ve seen nowhere else.  It’s not that we’re all farmers living directly off the land, and it’s not that we’re all camping day in and day out.  It’s that we thrive off of it. Our souls draw from the breath of the forests as they sway in the wind around us. We are calmed by the snow that coats our lives anew each winter, blanketing us with something familiar.  We are enticed by the clear teal water of Lake Superior, gazing down to times gone past.

It is the physical geography around us that draws a group of people into community.  Our community is made up of loyal, strong, and grateful people. But it’s the land that brings those people together.  It’s the land that has created this loving and welcoming community of Yoopers. It’s the land that we all call Home. And nothing has taught me that more than having to leave it.  When we protect our land, we protect our culture, our community, and ourselves.

Day in the Life: Stewardship Monitor

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

There’s nothing before me but a seemingly impenetrable tangle of browns and emeralds, and nothing beneath the soles of my boots but springy mats of verdant sphagnum. No trails exist here, unless of course you count the meandering tracks laid down by generations of hungry white-tailed deer or the occasional rambling moose. The trees here grow thick and wild. Young saplings strain towards what limited light exists in the understory, much of it occurring only in shimmering patches that dance with every sigh of wind. Branches of the highest trees intertwine in a bizarre decades-long fist-fight, each trying to claim a few extra inches of the sky. And above it all tower the supercanopy white pines, far beyond the reach of any prospective competition. Bald eagles perch in the lofty branches of these natural skyscrapers, often choosing to raise their young up here, in eyries so large a grown human could comfortably nap inside. Welcome to the Upper Peninsula.

I’m the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s summer Stewardship Monitor, and my objective when I’m out in the woods is fairly straightforward: conduct annual stewardship monitoring visits to each of the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s 65 conservation properties. Stewardship monitoring is a legal requirement for our conservation easements, preserves, and reserves, and requires UPLC staff or volunteers to visit a property and ensure that its stewards (i.e. landowners) are adhering to the terms of the conservation easement or management plan. The practical translation is that I walk the boundaries and through the center of each property, checking for out-of-place disturbances caused by humans (for example ATV use or littering) or natural events (such as trees felled by wind storms).

Lacking wings, my only option for traversing the landscape is good old-fashioned bushwhacking. Even when the U.P. gets (relatively) balmy, I suit up in head-to-toe “northwoods armor”: sturdy boots, long pants tucked fashionably into tall socks, long sleeves to guard my skin from the sharp fingers of spruce, and a helmet of mosquito netting to keep those pesky needle-faced insects at bay. This isn’t exactly the Amazon, but bushwhacking just a quarter mile can take twenty minutes if the undergrowth is thick, and there might be some scrambling and bog-hopping required!

It’s time for a full disclaimer: stewardship monitoring can be a sweaty and unglamorous job. But it is always rewarding, meditative, and freeing. It’s by far one of the favorite work tasks for UPLC staff, because we get to see firsthand how our efforts to protect ecosystems are paying off (not to mention we all jump at any chance to “play in the woods”).

Even though I’m out here to work, my stress levels plummet the second my boot hits the soft undergrowth of an Upper Peninsula forest. The repetition and exertion of cross-country hiking quiet my mind. My gaze drifts among the gentle visual chaos of the forest, where there are no straight lines or right angles anywhere to be found. The gentle crunch of twigs and birdsong drifting down from the branches fill my ears, while my nose drinks in the scent of rich humus. It’s so easy to get distracted when my attention is split between ogling the beauty of the forest, looking for anything that’s out of place, and choosing the most sturdy-looking place for my next footfall. I’m often glad I’m alone in the woods, so no one else can count the number of times I trip over roots or rocks or – let’s be honest – air. (If a Jill falls in the forest and there’s no one around to see it, did it even really happen? Not if I don’t tell anyone.)

Even though I’ve spent endless summers in the Upper Peninsula, I routinely stumble across things I’ve never seen before. Healthy forests often have thick carpets of deadwood lying thick on the ground, and close inspection might reveal dozens of fungi colonies that have gathered for a feast. A fallen aspen might be riddled with the meticulously ordered holes mined by a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a native woodpecker whose name sounds like an insult straight out of a Monty Python movie. Snow-white Indian Pipe, a parasitic chlorophyll-free plant, clings to the hillside above a floating bog covered in fuzzy Labrador tea. And the endless march of time brings new discoveries every week: one week I’ll be walking through a carpet of minuscule spring beauties, the next the lady’s slippers orchids will unfurl.

So, yes, I’m out here to work, and to conduct an annual task that is critical to the continued conservation of our protected lands. But that doesn’t mean I can’t thoroughly bask in the beauty of the Upper Peninsula while I’m at it.

If you’re interested in experiencing some of these properties for yourself, check out our Interactive Map. Most of our Reserve and Preserve properties are open to the public for recreational day use including hiking, nature photography, and snowshoeing.

Photos and words by Jill Sekely, 11/06/2018.